Recently I went out to Terrebonne, ostensibly to see the exhibit on Aimé Despatis at the Maison Bélisle. It’s a good thing that it was a nice day and that the whole Île-des-Moulins area there is very nice, because the exhibit itself was anything but.
I confused Aimé Despatis with William-Edmond Blumhart and didn’t realize my mistake until I walked up to the second floor of the Maison Bélisle, which must be all of 500 square feet, saw the eight panels, and asked myself “we drove an hour to see this?”
While M. Despatis might have been a significant person in Terrebonne’s history, the exhibit kind of left me with the idea that Terrebonne’s history wasn’t anything to write home about. Besides the brightly colored panels there was a video screen that had some interview on a continuous loop, which is never a good idea, and even less so in an exhibit without many visitors.
They did have a copy of the first edition of L’Écho de Terrebonne
Which was a precursor to La Revue de Terrebonne and an old typewriter that I presume was used by M. Despatis. But I can see old typewriters in coffee shops wanting to impart an atmosphere and junk shops that haven’t quite realized we’re in the 21st century yet. And while the first edition of L’Écho might be significant, it really is yesterday’s news and isn’t particularly relevant now.
This all might have been appeased if there had been some particularly compelling content, but reading about some local dude, who wasn’t from my locality, that had started a weekly newspaper wasn’t compelling to me. The local newspapers can for the most part be browsed on-line (L’Echo de Terrebonne, Le Courrier de Terrebonne) so there has got to be something more to make an exhibit worthwhile – and I’m not even going to get into the fact that they charge $6 to get in.
Two display cases containing medals, an army bag, some pictures and a beret doesn’t cut it. If M. Despatis was so significant to Terrebonne’s history, why didn’t they show this more concretely? Instead of digital reproductions of newspapers printed on panels, kind of like what I would expect from some eighth grade history presentation, why didn’t they get out more old newspapers?
Instead of bundling up some copies of La Revue for me to sit on and leaving copies of books on the history of Terrebone to read, why didn’t they blow-up and reprint some pictures from those old issues of La Revue and then take pictures from the same spot today so as to illustrate the advance of time on Terrebonne? Why couldn’t they have recreated M. Despatis’ desk? Or compile a list of everyone who had written for La Revue? I’m certain that they could have found some famous people who got there start there. Or as I presume that M. Despatis wrote a lot of the content in La Revue, how about coming up with some concrete method to display approximately the number of words he wrote in his lifetime.
While it would be extremely easy to dis La Bande a Paul for their exhibition design to my eye, it doesn’t look like they were given an awful lot of material to work with. Despite what people think about today’s technological advances, I can’t think of anytime in history when words on a wall made for a good exhibit.